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Concert Review: LOS TIGRES DEL NORTE – Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas

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93pts

Price Range : $49 - 276

Location: Michelob ULTRA Arena, Mandalay Bay Resort, Las Vegas Concert Date: February 3, 2024 Next Tour Stops: Mexico, Texas, California, Spain, UK, North Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Utah, Tennessee, South Carolina, Michigan, Canada, Washington

If music is the universal language, then going to a concert by the legendary and nationalistic band Los Tigres Del Norte from Sinaloa, Mexico, while having zero proficiency in the Spanish language is a fine way to test the aphorism. In the crowd of nearly sold-out 12,000, men wear their ranchero (cowboy) hats with their sport jackets, denim and boots and the ladies in fine, sexy evening wear and dancing heels–and no “English Only” rules apply here but the opposite: Mexican flags are waved with pride, women on stage robed in traditional, colorful jarabe dance costumes twirl, a 10-piece mariachi band joins the festivities with that signature sound we know from the movies, and the main members of the band play their accordions and bajo sexto 12-string guitars with full abandon while passionately singing their native norteño songs and canciónes.

Los Tigres has won seven Grammys, but a gringo like me wouldn’t know it. Beyonce has 32, so there’s some perspective–the band is nearly 22% as renowned as the R&B pop superstar. The evening encapsulates Los Tigres’ 56-year existence, accommodating almost 3 hours of their most well-known songs (the audience knows all the words and sing along to every tune, just like at a Taylor Swift concert although not nearly as obnoxiously) as well as a generous portion of traditional Mexican songs. Not only do they pay tribute to their homeland but all Latino countries, such as El Salvador, Argentina, Colombia, as their flags are represented at one point in the show as well. Los Tigres has been designated as the historically-relevant Latin American band, and they wear their ambassador hats well. 

But what of their music?–especially to ears that do not comprehend the Spanish language. Should I have even come? Is the environment a kind of Mexican FUBU special occasion that I shouldn’t feel welcome in? Am I intruding on a cultural celebration that doesn’t belong to me?

Let’s get this straight. At a Los Tigres Del Norte concert you will be dancing in the aisles. There is no sitting in your seat claiming your privilege to require others to sit, stay quiet and not block your view of the stage. Everyone’s having a margarita for cryin’ out loud. This is a party. A prideful, celebratory, nationalistic party, mind you, not to mention an exceedingly polite one, and at one point in the show I was pulled up from my seat to join a group of lovely people dancing in the very aisles. One fellow put his ranchero hat on me, someone else’s girl flirtatiously danced opposite my lame attempts at dance, but laughs, merriment and shoulder-hugs were shared before the night was through. Hell yes, I was welcome. And with the tour yet to make several stops in the U.S. and in Mexico and Spain throughout 2024, I can’t encourage everyone enough to go off the beaten path and experience a night of music that’s one-of-a-kind and entirely unique. 

Thanks to the internet and streamers, I did my requisite prep before the evening and was able to identify some favorites out of the band’s extensive catalog of hits, several of which were performed in the setlist of what had to be at least 30 songs. Most moving is “La carta” (The Letter) about a migrant laborer wanting a letter delivered to his mother in his native land. Other highlights include: the iconic “Jefe de jefes” (Boss of Bosses) a classic ode to corridos, folk ballads that tell socially-conscious stories of the hard truths of living in Mexico and as migrants; “Quiero volar contigo” (I Want to Fly With You), a lilting, romantic tune that has all the classic traits and would make Tony Bennett proud; “La camioneta gris” (The Gray Truck), a tale of drug smuggling and violence; “Golpes en el corazón” (Blows to the Heart), a gorgeous ballad expressing the hurt of love’s deceptions; “América” with its La Bamba beat, and “La mesa del rincón” (Corner Table), a song of drunken sadness.

Music is universal when it touches the soul, entrances you with its beauty and makes you want to dance regardless of language. This makes music an essential art of our humanity, and Los Tigres Del Norte have been one of the most vocal proponents of compassion and understanding through music for over a half-century, and it remains a conscious choice–for those of us outside the Latino community–to discover it and embrace it. It’s an effort that reaps indescribable rewards.

March 1, 2024

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